Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Celebrity molecules

From today's New York Times

The drugs in his system also included the antidepressants fluoxetine and olanzapine; the tranquilizers diazepam and meprobamate, which are found in Valium and other medications; the cough-suppressant dextromethorphan; and the antihistamine diphenhydramine.

The actor Corey Haim died from pneumonia complicated by an enlarged heart and narrowed blood vessels, while drugs found in his system played no role in his death, the Los Angeles County coroner said Tuesday.

The coroner has made two calls: that he died of pneumonia unrelated to the drugs in his system and that olanzapine, otherwise known as Zyprexa, is an antidepressant.

Celebrity molecules are also making a name for themselves in the visual arts.

Lizzie Burns is a biochemist and artist affiliated with Oxford University who designs jewelry and men’s ties based on the chemical structure of celebrity molecules like testosterone or dopamine. “The designs of chemical structures can have an intrinsic natural beauty and balance,” she said. Not to mention a certain conceptual consistency: there’s caffeine with its three reactive “hands,” as she calls the little methyl groups, waving at you to wake up; the lightning-bolt zigzag of the capsaicin molecule that gives chili its fire; and the bicycle shape of Ritalin, inviting the aimless wanderer to hop aboard and ride.

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